When should you visit Hokkaido?

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Japan is a multi-faceted country with many appealing aspects. To experience the fast-paced city life, surrounded by cutting edge technology, many head to the capital city of Tokyo. To discover the rich culture of the country, the ancient city of Kyoto may be your destination of choice.

If you’re looking for a Japan getaway that has something unique to offer throughout the year, head to Hokkaido, where each season has its own distinct beauty. It’s as if the scene is reset at the turn of each season and painted with new colours and sights. Here are the charms Hokkaido offers travellers by the season.

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Spring

Goryokaku Park
Yuki Shimazu, Goryokaku Park, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Japan is famed for its beautiful cherry blossoms, with many from all over the world flocking to the country just to admire these fragile flowers. What adds to their allure is their short lives and uncertain blooming period – they only bloom for two weeks and the slightest change in weather conditions will affect when they bloom. However if you miss out on the cherry blossoms in western and southern Japan, here’s the good news — you’ll be able to still catch them in Hokkaido as the season is much later when you travel up north.

Enjoy the sights at Matsumae Castle, the only Japanese-style castle in the Hokkaido region, and the thousands of cherry trees in the nearby park. In Hakodate, head to the star-shaped fort of Goryokaku, where the entire fort is shrouded in a pale pink.

If that’s not enough, get your fill of pink by spending the day at Takinoue Park, covered in pink moss for the Shibazakura festival. The sea of pink is one of the most photogenic spots during spring and there are many live stage performances and food stalls in the park. For a more colourful experience, with hues of red and yellow, Yubetsu town hosts a festival that fills the park with beautiful tulips.

Summer

4 different sides of Hokkaido 2
Shi Heng Cheong, Blossom, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Summer in Hokkaido is short but markedly beautiful and colourful. The most popular places to visit are the flower fields in Biei and Furano. The rolling fields are covered in a clearly delineated patchwork of purple and yellow that changes based on the season of the flowers. Their are tulips, grape hyacinths, pansies, poppies, lupines, lavender, peonies, marigolds and many others.

Furano is also known for its breathtaking purple fields filled with lavender flowers. There are several varieties that come in varying shades of purple. Three of the best viewing spots for lavender fields are Farm Tomita, Flower Land Kamifurano and Farm Tomita – Lavender East. Each farm also has its share of delicious lavender-inspired goodies such as lavender soft serve ice cream.

Autumn

4 different sides of Hokkaido 3
Kevin Jaako, The journey begins…, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The foliage in Hokkaido, along with the rest of Japan, turns a beautiful array of shades of gold, red and orange in autumn. Given the many nature trails and forested areas in Hokkaido, it is one of the best places in Japan to view the full glory of the country’s fall hues.

One of the first places to welcome autumn colours is the Daisetsuzan National Park. A leisurely way to see the sights is to take the Kurodake Ropeway, but if you are a bit more hardworking and want to make the trek on foot, the hike to the summit of Mount Kurodake takes about 90 minutes and gets you a gorgeous view of the park.

If you arrive in late October, head to Onuma park in southern Hokkaido, just north of Hakodate. Two lakes provide the perfect backdrop for the foliage and a stroll around the lakes is the best way to admire nature’s beautiful handiwork.

Winter

satoshi sawada, untitled via Flickr CC BY 2.0
satoshi sawada, untitled via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Snow falls onto Hokkaido in spades and this is the reason the ski resorts in the prefecture are usually teeming with eager skiers who have been waiting to hit the slopes for a whole year.

One popular destination that has gained much fame for its powder snow is Niseko, thanks to its consistent quality snowfall. Skiing and snowboarding are the must-do activities here and you’ll be joined by many others who are looking for the same snow experience – rest assured, there’s more than enough snow for everyone as everything in Hokkaido is covered in white during winter.

Adrenaline sports aside, much beautiful scenery is to be had in Hokkaido during the winter season too. Head to the Blue Pond in Biei for a scene that many Mac users may find familiar – the desktop picture of OS X Mountain Lion. Named after the water’s colour-changing properties throughout the year, the water turns a bright blue and is filled with bare snow-covered trees. Though the pond is stunning throughout the year, its wintry sight is the most outstanding of them all. And the pond is specially lit up during winter to allow everyone to enjoy the magical scene.

That said, practically every corner of Hokkaido is Instagram ready during the snowy season — and the other three seasons as well.

Which season is your favourite? Let us know in the comments.

Main image: istockphoto/littlewormy

When should you visit Hokkaido? was last modified: August 12th, 2016 by Kai Lun
Author: Kai Lun (20 posts)

With a penchant for the path less trodden and chasing anything that's out of the ordinary, Seow Kai Lun (call her Kai Lun) is a keen observer and documenter of the world, working to share her experiences as a travel writer. Follow her on Instagram @skailun.